The throttle was sticking open and wasn’t rotating smoothly. The front brake lever was bent, which given there were no scratches or marks elsewhere meant it had fallen over onto something soft, like grass. The right mirror was missing. Most frustrating, neither the speedometer nor the odometer were working.
I was on the 405 freeway south of Los Angeles at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and traffic was moving along surprisingly well. With no idea how fast I was going, whether or not the tires would hold up or whether the bike would either suddenly die or stick the throttle wide open, I simply kept up with the cars around me and hoped for the best.
The good news was, the Nighthawk seemed to be running very well, especially considering it was 35 years old and had sat for about half of that time.
Back at the office (I’d taken most of the workday off to spontaneously buy this thing), I met our delivery guy Thad, who was dropping off the new Indian FTR 1200 S. He knew what I’d been up to, and was almost as excited as I was. Fun fact: in the TV commercial for the Nighthawk 700S back in 1983 or whenever it was, the guy riding the motorcycle is Thad.
After a suitably enthusiastic response, he promised to come back the next day with some tools and help me sort out the sticking throttle.
Turned out the problem wasn’t the throttle tube or dry cables (although some lube on both didn’t hurt). It was the cable adjustment down at the carbs themselves. Once we figured that out, it snapped back and forth perfectly.
My friend Kendra showed up with her daughter and some Panda Express. She knows I can get cranky when I don’t eat.
Alone with the ‘Hawk again, I sat back and assessed the situation. I’d spent most of the day cleaning it and it was starting to emerge from its shell. Fortunately, we have boxes of cleaning products sent to us by advertisers and companies keen on getting product coverage, and I got to sample them all.
What worked: Star Brite Xtreme Clean (spray on, wipe with wet wash mit or cloth, rinse) and S100 Total Cycle Finish Restorer. The S100 in particular worked impressively well to remove some of the baked-on water spots, restore the shine to the wheels and make some of the faded and oxidized engine casing black again. It also polished up the black chrome exhaust beautifully.
It couldn’t do much for the faded switchgear, rear mudguard or fuse box cover, however. And there were still some stubborn water spots on the engine. Those are really baked on there. Hmm…have to figure that out some other way.
The ‘Hawk was clean enough now that I felt I could show it off a bit, and my first stop would be my boss’ place, where I was hoping he could also help me diagnose my biggest problem: the broken speedo/odometer.
After taking a look, we determined it wasn’t likely electrical (good news) but it wasn’t the cable–it needed a new speedo gear drive assembly, which mounts to the front axle. The bad news: Honda no longer stocks that part so I’d have to try to find a used one on eBay.
A quick search and $30 later one is on its way.
He helped me refill the old-school flooded battery (gotta seriously consider replacing that with an AGM or even a lithium battery), loaned me a round chrome righthand mirror off one of his vintage bikes and sent me on my way.
Total investment so far: $30 and some elbow grease.